From Pencils to Pixels: Oregon’s Multimedia Artists and Animators

by Emily Starbuck

November 15, 2016

Multimedia artists and animators create visual effects and animations for television, movies, video games, advertising, and other media. Many artists and animators are employed in the information industry, including motion picture and sound recording industries and software publishing. Workers in this occupation design and create movies, games, and visual effects, typically using a variety of computer programs. Most artists and animators work in a specific field, and often are responsible for just one part of a larger project, such as character design or background scenery in a game or film.
An Emerging Occupation in Oregon

Employment of multimedia artists and animators in Oregon has increased rapidly over the past decade, with further job growth expected in the next 10 years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Oregon has one of the highest concentrations of multimedia artists and animators in the country, coming in third behind Georgia and California. Oregon is home to companies both large and small, including SIE Bend, a video game developer and division of Sony, and Laika, an Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation studio.

The Conference Board's Help Wanted Online program provides data on online ads for job vacancies by occupation for counties and metro areas across the country. As of October 2016, there were 13 help wanted ads online for this occupation in Oregon, 11 of which were posted in the past month. Ten of these ads were for positions in Multnomah County, indicating that the current demand for this occupation is strongest in the Portland metro area.

Education and Skills

The typical entry-level education for multimedia artists and animators is a bachelor's degree in a related field. Because these workers design all visual aspects of a film or video game, strong artistic abilities are essential to success in the field. Applicants must also have a portfolio of previous work that demonstrates their skills. Portfolios are especially important for artists and animators that are self-employed freelancers – in 2014, the BLS reported that a little more than half of workers in this occupation nationally were self-employed.

Many colleges in Oregon offer bachelor's degrees in related fields, including Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Several community colleges also offer associate's degrees or certificates in fields such as game and interactive media design; web page, digital/multimedia and information resources design; and animation, interactive technology, video graphics, and special effects design. Many of these programs require that students take a portfolio design class to assist in their future job search.

Job Growth and Wages Highest in the Portland Metro Area

In 2014, 70 percent of Oregon's multimedia artists and animators were employed in the Portland Metro area (Multnomah and Washington counties). The Portland area is also expected to add the most jobs in this occupation through 2024, with a projected growth rate of 19 percent. Just over half of the job openings in the Portland Metro area will be new growth opportunities. The other job openings are replacement positions due to employees changing jobs or retiring.

Nationally, the BLS projects 6 percent job growth for artists and animators. Oregon ranks ninth in the nation for net job growth in this occupation over the next 10 years.

Multimedia artists and animators make above average wages in Oregon. The 2015 annual average wage for this occupation was $63,203, compared with the annual average of $46,899 for all occupations in Oregon. Workers in the Portland Metro area make slightly more, with an average wage of $78,754 in 2016. This places the Portland area in the top 10 highest paying metropolitan areas for artists and animators in the nation.

Overall, the occupational outlook for multimedia artists and animators is positive, especially in the Portland Metro area, where employment growth and wages are both higher than average. As the demand for mobile gaming and applications increases, those artists and animators that keep up with rapidly changing software will be more competitive in their field.

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